Breaking down NCAA tournament seeding scenarios for Kentucky
Kentucky lost an ugly game at Tennessee this weekend but the long term picture of NCAA tournament seeding is what is on fans minds the most. With that in mind we are going to break down all of the Cats various NCAA tournament seed scenarios with selection Sunday now less than two weeks away.
Where do the Cats stand now-As things stand now Kentucky is viewed as either the last 1 seed or one of the top 2 seeds according to most bracket predictors. The bracket matrix is a website that accumulates all the various predictions and compiles them into a master prediction. By that Kentucky is the 4th 1 seed just fractions ahead of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Who can’t Kentucky pass- Virginia and Gonzaga are the top two 1 seeds and they are both locks to stay ahead of Kentucky. Gonzaga has finished their regular season and will likely roll through the West Coast Conference tournament but a loss would not put them behind Kentucky. Go ahead and mark the Zags down as the 1 seed in the West because that is where they will be when the brackets are announced. Virginia has to play at Syracuse tonight which is a game that they could potentially lose and then they close the season at home against Louisville. If they lost both games and then lost in the ACC tournament I guess it would be possible for Kentucky to win out and pass them but that scenario is highly unrealistic. The more interesting thing to watch with Virginia is the region they will be placed in. They would prefer to play in Washington DC which is the East regional, but that is the same place that Duke wants to go. It is highly likely that either Virginia or Duke ends up in DC with the other team ending up in Louisville or Kansas City. If Kentucky ends up as the 2 seed in the South it could be against one of those two teams.
Who can Kentucky pass- The only team ahead of Kentucky on the bracket matrix that they could possibly pass is Duke. The Blue Devils have an easy home game against Wake Forest and then close the season at North Carolina. If they lost to UNC for a second time and then lost to someone not named Virginia in the ACC tournament it could result in them getting knocked to a 2 seed. Or at least they could be pushed down to being the last 1 seed which would send them to Kansas City in the Midwest regional. That would open up the South region in Louisville for Kentucky or Tennessee.
Who can pass Kentucky- In some brackets Tennessee has already passed the Cats but on the bracket matrix they are just a bit behind for the time being. The Vols finish with a tough schedule, facing Mississippi St in Knoxville and going on the road against Auburn. A loss in either of those games would give the Cats a leg up if they can win their final two games. The thing that would likely decide which team gets the best tournament seed is if the teams face each other again in the SEC tournament. The winner of that game would have a big advantage when the committee looks at their resumes. The other team that is close on the Cats trail is North Carolina. The Tar Heels have been hot of late and have an easy road game against Boston College before closing the season at home against Duke. If the Heels could win both of those games and advance deep into the ACC tournament there is a real chance they could pass Kentucky in the selection process. The one plus side is that they would likely push Duke to being a 2 seed in that scenario so the Heels would simply trade places with them and not take an additional 1 seed. Michigan is the other biggest threat to challenge for a 1 seed. They finish with a road game against Michigan State. If the Wolverines won that game and then won the Big 10 tournament it would make them a serious contender for a 1 seed or one of the top 2 seeds for sure. Michigan State could compete for one of the top 2 seeds by beating Michigan and winning their conference tournament but they will need help from Kentucky to be able to pass them on the seed line.
What Kentucky needs to do- This part is pretty easy to figure out, the Cats just need to win. The road game Tuesday night against Ole Miss is absolutely crucial. It will be a tough game against a good team and the Cats will probably still be without Reid Travis but Kentucky has got to find a way to win. If they can do that and then win the game in Rupp against Florida to close out the season they will be in good shape. Then they need to win their SEC opener against whatever team they face on Friday night. If they win those three games it should keep them as one of the top 2 seeds at worst. Next up is a likely third game against Tennessee which seems to be shaping up to happen on Saturday afternoon of the tournament. If Kentucky wins that it puts them in the drivers seat for a 1 seed no matter what they do on Sunday. Obviously finishing things off with an SEC title would put the Cats in as good of a spot as they could be. For now everything hangs on winning in Oxford tomorrow night.
What to root for when watching other games- This is fairly obvious as well, Kentucky needs any of the other teams I mentioned above to lose as many games as possible. Rooting against each of these teams in their conference tournaments would also be wise. Since Virginia is firmly ahead of Kentucky it would make sense to root for them in the ACC tournament against either Duke or North Carolina. In the Big 10 tournament it would be good for any team other than Michigan or Michigan St to win it.
Kentucky could have made life a lot easier with a road win against Tennessee but they will be fine if they take care of business. By the end of this week we will have a lot clearer picture of how things will look on selection Sunday.